Monthly Meetings‎ > ‎

2018-09-11 - #072

The Viability and Sustainability (V&S) Approach to Organizational Transformation

This month our speakers are our members Dr. Angela Espinosa, Dr. Jon Walker and Dr. Panos Panagiotakopoulos and builds on their practice and research work at the intersection of strongly sustainability business and the viability of the enterprise (as a system). 

Our speakers this month are global leaders in research and practice on the ground-breaking work by Dr. Stafford Beer on the Viable System Model: applying a systems approach to the question "what makes an organization viable?"  (Dr. Panagiotakopoulos previously presented to the group about his work on applying the VSM to sustainability here).

Last year two of our speakers summarized their work in a 2nd edition of their book: Angela, E., & Jon, W. (2017). Complexity Approach To Sustainability, A: Theory And Application (Second Edition) (2nd Edition, Vol. 5). World Scientific.

Most recently, Dr. Panagiotakpoulis, working with our member Harvey Weisfeld and myself, have undertaken consulting work where delivered improved results to a client by integrating the use of the VSM for enterprise governance design for viability with the use of the Flourishing Business Canvas for strongly sustainable business model design.  We recently had the opportunity to spend a day together to explore the approach we took with Dr. Espinosa and Dr. Walker.

So we are delighted that this month our speakers will review their research and practical experiences, along with their reflections on our most recent conversations.

As usual, we are meeting on the 2nd Tuesday of the month
  • Date: Tues Sept 11 
  • Time: 90 minutes starting  13h30 PST / 16h30 EST / 21h30 GMT / 22h30 CET / 05h30 JST (+1 day)

To join the meeting please see the virtual logistics posted to our LinkedIn Group in this post. (Note there is *NO* face-to-face meeting this month)

Anyone who joins the LinkedIn forum is considered a member of this group and is welcome to join at the meeting


To introduce her talk Angela wrote:

While there is some agreement on the usefulness of systems and complexity approaches to tackle the sustainability challenges facing our organisations and governments in the 21st Century, less is clear regarding the way such approaches can inspire new ways of improving businesses and communities sustainability. 

In our presentation we will introduces ongoing research and practice using the Viable System Model (VSM) as a meta-language to facilitate long-term sustainability in business, communities and societies. 

We will firstly explain the Viability and Sustainability Approach (V&S), inspired in Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model. Then we will summarize the "Methodology to support self-transformation" and illustrate through a few examples, the way it has been used to analyse capabilities for governance for sustainability at real situations by inspiring bottom up processes of self-organisation. Finally we will introduce recent work on combining the Flourishing Business Canvas (a project of members of the SSBMGroup) with the VSM approach and reflect about the usefulness of this heuristic approach to learn about viability and  sustainability.


About Our Speakers

Dr Angela Espinosa

Reader, The Business School, University of Hull, Cottingham Rd, Hull, HU6 7RX, Hull, England, UK, a.espinosa@hull.ac.uk.
Invited Fellow El Rosario Business School, La Sabana Business School,

Angela was born in Bogota, Colombia and graduated as a computer and systems engineer in 1981, and got a PhD on Organisational Cybernetics from Aston Business School, UK in 1995. She worked as an Information Systems Manager, in private and public enterprises, and as the Director of the Secretariat of Information and Systems of the Colombian President's Office (1990 – 1992). From 1993 to 2002, she taught systems and cybernetics in the Engineering Faculty in Los Andes University; and provided consultancy for both private and public organisations. Since 2002 she has been researching and teaching at the Centre of Systems Studies from Hull University Business School, where she is a Reader in Cybernetics. Since 2009 she has been an invited fellow at Los Andes, El Rosario, La Sabana and  Externado Business Schools, in  Colombia. She has also been an invited fellow in Australia, Cuba, Oman, and Mexico. She has focused her post-doctoral research on the application of organizational cybernetics to support organisational and societal self -transformations towards improved viability and sustainability on businesses, communities and networks.  She has published extensively the results of this research in systems, cybernetics, complexity and operational research journals. 

Dr. Jon Walker 

Jon has over thirty years experience working in the co-operative business sector. He has established and co-managed a range of businesses including retail outlets, a small-scale manufacturing plant, a warehouse and a chain of supermarkets dealing mainly with whole-food, organic and fairly-traded products. Concurrently, Jon has lectured, published, consulted and provided training courses in both private and public sectors, on organisational structures.

In particular Jon has pioneered the use of innovative organisational techniques known as the Viable Systems Model, in both large cooperatives and an eco-community. The resulting organisational changes have resulted in working practices which are both efficient whilst at the same time being based on principles of participation and individual creativity and autonomy.

Jon is based in Yorkshire where he continues to have direct involvement with the co-operative food sector there, in particular in developing food networks that serve local communities. Nationally, he is working with the Transition Network, the Permaculture Association, the Plunkett Foundation and the Cooperative Group.

Dr. Panos Panagiotakopoulos

Panos is a sustainability researcher and consultant with ten years experience in coaching organizations to assess and integrate sustainability. As principal and founder of the boutique consulting Close the Loop, Panos has advised companies from the agricultural, real-estate, construction and retails sectors on climate change, life cycle assessment and sustainability.

He has also provided training on these topics to professionals and students in Canada, Europe and Asia. He was recently a business coach for the 2017 Agents of Change: Climate Solutions accelerator of the Centre for Social Innovation and was involved in the design of Bob Willard’s Sustainability ROI Workbook.

Panos is an Environmental Engineer and holds a PhD in Corporate Sustainability. He has published academic papers on corporate sustainability and as part of his latest research project he developed an online tool to help businesses choose appropriate sustainability certifications (ecolabels) for their products and services. Panos is an adjunct faculty at Seneca College on Corporate Social Responsibility and is currently working with Better My Business and The Roots Collaborative. 


The slides presented plus a link to the unedited recording of this meeting
is available via our GoogleDrive in the folder for this months meeting. 

The link to the recording is posted as a comment to this Linkedin Post about this meeting, along with on-going discussion about the meeting by our members.  A copy of the recording is stored in the GoogleDrive folder for this months meeting.

Attendance list is updated at the event to record attendance (if a location is not provided participant was F2F in Toronto)

  • Dr Angela Espinosa, Reader, The Business School, University of Hull (Lancaster, UK)
  • Dr. Jon Walker (Huddersfield, UK)
  • Dr. Panos Panagiotakopoulos (Toronto)
  • Antony Upward, SSBMG Co-founder, Convener Flourishing Enterprise Innovation Toolkit ProjectAdjunct Prof. OCAD University Faculty of Design (Kristiansand, Norway)
  • Sayeh Dastgheib-Beheshti, Sayeh.ca (Toronto)
  • Nicole Norris, OCADU/Georgian College  (Orillia, Ontario)
  • Eric Fath-Komes, (Groningen, Netherlands)
  • Dr. Ruben Burga, University of Guelph, (Guelph, Ontario)
  • Simon Robinson, Holonomics Education (Brazil)
  • Ushnish Sengupta, Generation Connection (Oakville, Ontario)
  • Ondine Hogeboom, Co-Founder Lean4Flouirshing Startups (Montreal)
  • Annette Dubreuil, Ecofiscal Commission (Toronto)
  • Vinciane Servantie, Associate professor, Universidad de Los Andes, (Colombia)
  • Dr. Peter Jones, Flourishing Enterprise Innovation Toolkit Project, OCAD SFI {Professor and Managing Dir, redesign Network designdialogues.com }  (Toronto)
  • Jim Falconer




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